Typical of fake news, there has been a photo doing it’s rounds on Facebook creating big excitement. A simple photo of a vial, with a label stating Coronavirus Vaccine, and a syringe in the background. Written under the photo, in Sinhalese, is a statement about Israel having developed the vaccine for the Covid-19 coronavirus. AFP Fact check traced the posts and investigated the truthfulness: the post is not quite true.
Alarm bells for the general public should have been that the writing, Sinhalese, is in a Sri Lanka language, not Hebrew. Would Israel not break the news first, instead of Sri Lanka? The lesson here for the general public: Do not believe in Facebook posts which have not been published by a journalistic company.
What is the latest news in possible vaccines for the Covid-19 virus?
According to Industry Global News24, there are at least 35 different laboratories, worldwide, which are racing to develop a vaccine. Israel is one of the leading contenders. The MIGAL Galilee Research has a trial vaccine ready to be tested. Two American laboratories, Moderna Therapeutics and Greffex, both have trial vaccines ready for human testing. Apparently, China has 5 vaccine prototypes being developed.
For some, this does seem rather fast, since the Covid-19 coronavirus is very new (known for only 5 months). However, the common theme with these labs is that genetic techniques have become more efficient, allowing for faster turn around times in research and laboratory development. The exception is the Israeli lab, MIGAL Galilee: they were developing a vaccine for a coronavirus which was infecting poultry. As chance would have it, this vaccine seemed to be able to be simply modified for the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Greffex had developed the vaccine for MERS, so they were able to use that knowledge to quickly develop a possible vaccine for the new epidemic. Moderna has taken rather innovative route. Unlike normal vaccines, which are weaker or dead versions of the target virus, Moderna has created small mRNA sequences, which, a lot like viruses, program our cells to produce proteins which physically stop the virus.
They are all very promising vaccines, and surely something to be excited about. However, they will not be ready this year, and, therefore, will not be the saving grace for this pandemic – not this year, at least. New developed vaccines are extensively tested, in many different situations, in laboratories and in the real world, before they are deemed safe for use. These safety tests are strictly adhered to, to ensure the safety of everyone – if there are any danger in using the vaccine, it will be scraped immediately, and researched will have to start again in designing the vaccine. These tests take time, at least one year. They might look very promising on paper, but testing them in real life situations is a very risky undertaking.
However, Chinese vaccines might be used a little earlier – according to the South China Morning Post, as early as April 2020. However, these vaccines will be only used in very critical cases, and will not be distributed to the generally healthy public. They will still finish the safety tests of these viruses before being widely distributed. Will they distribute their vaccines to the international market, and join the American Economic-Pharmaceutical race? Only time will tell.